What To Know Before You Buy A Leather Watch Cuff
This article is for people who want a wide leather watch cuff, but have limited knowledge about both leather and timepieces. This will help you understand what you should know before you invest in a leather watch cuff. So let’s talk about leather and watches! But first, I’d like to establish what I mean by a ‘quality’ timepiece. Although high quality, I’m not talking about a $10,000 Rolex, but rather the under $500 timepieces that dominate the market.
One of the aspects of the watch industry I find odd is just how little attention is given to the watch strap, especially when it’s made from leather, or at least their version of leather. Many quality timepieces will outlive their original straps, forcing you to seek out and find a new, nice fitting replacement. The strap becomes a secondary concern for most watch makers. Add to that, even fewer watch manufacturers create their own wide style cuff straps, like the ones you see on Leatherpunk, or any other variation where the back of the watch face rests on a base strap, rather than having direct contact with your skin.
These watch cuffs are by no means rare or hard to find. A quick Google search will yield many websites offering leather watch cuffs, ready to wear. The fact is, watch makers haven’t specialized in robust use of leather, and this has created an entire aftermarket industry for wide styled leather watch cuffs. Many of them are really nice, too, from a leather perspective. Some of them only look nice in photography. Others are totally useless. How do you tell the difference? Here are a few simple things to look for when you’re browsing for a new watch cuff:
Avoid watch cuffs makers that don’t demonstrate their products in use, only showing their product blank, without a watch face. Often this means they’re using leather too thick to slip between the pins and the case. Only the largest of watch faces will work with these types of cuffs.
In regards to how the timepiece sits on the cuff, avoid generic ‘one size fits all’ configurations. The strap that holds the watch face to your cuff should completely fill in the span of the pin, otherwise with too much exposed pin, there’s a risk of the pin shifting out of place. It also looks gaudy.
Another common watch cuff configuration that you’ll see frequently is where the cuff has an additional piece of leather between the base strap and the timepiece. Usually this is stitched onto the base strap.
Looking at the cuff above, you see the timepiece, then below that a thickness of leather (usually equal to the thickness of the base strap), and then the base strap. When you add it all up, there’s probably 15-20 mm of material (a watch, plus 3 pieces of leather), or more. This is an excessive use of leather. When wearing a watch cuff, you should still be able to do things like wear a long sleeve shirt, or put your coat on without too much strain.
This may seem like a nifty presentation, and I often wondered why I was seeing this so much, but this is actually a work-around to a hardware problem that the leather craftsman is trying to deal with. They are using Chicago screws that are too long for a normal amount of leather. The screws won’t tighten onto the leather unless more leather is added; essentially they’re making the leather fit the hardware, instead of sourcing the proper hardware to fit the leather.
Stay away from watch brands you’ve never heard of. A vendor who buys enough watches (about $1,000 worth of cheap watches) can have their logo printed directly on the dial, trying to suggest their business name is an actual brand. They’re no different than other knock-off brands like Sauer, or Raymond Charles. What, you’ve never heard of Raymond Charles? My personal favorite is Secco…did he say Seiko? These watches tend to be sold in lots of 6 for $30 or less. Do you really want a $5 timepiece on a $100 piece of leather?
But I don't know what a good watch brand is.
If you’re not familiar with watch brands, their reputation, for example, there are other tell-tales to look for:
Buy watches with a water resistance rating of at least 50 meters(or 5 bars). This is the necessary rating required to safely do things like swimming or letting running water come into contact with the timepiece This rating is mostly based on how well the back cover is sealed. We assume that most watches nowadays are waterproof for stuff like showering or washing hands, but that’s not true. The Casio® timepieces I sell have case backs that are sealed so tight it’s almost impossible to get off unless you’re a small tools expert, yet I have some cheap watches I got years ago (off brand) and some of those backs I can pop off simply by slapping it into my open palm.
I don't swim, why should I care about depth ratings?
Ok, so maybe you aren't scuba diving for lost treasure, but water isn't the only liquid your watch comes in contact with. If you've ever been carrying a drink through a crowded room (like a bar, late at night), and had it bumped suddenly, you know that it usually goes up your wrist. Unless you have a high bar rating watch, there's a serious risk those sugary liquids can work their way to the inside of your watch case and cause problems. Not to mention dust. A low or no bar rated watch will almost certainly take on dust that will be highly visible. You'll see it on the inside of the crystal and on the dial.
Careful buying steampunk wind-up timepieces. I get it, they look nice seeing gears turning. A cheap wind up watch is just a novelty item, and a there's a good chance it will be less reliable than a cheap quartz timepiece. Some aren't wind-up at all, just etching on the dial. Don't shun quartz. Using Quartz is actually one of the most accurate ways to measure time, only gaining/losing about 20 seconds per year. It's also an economical fix for watch makers, allowing them to devote more resources in other areas of the watch, and in turn, you get an overall better timepiece for the same money, or less.
Avoid acrylic covers(usually referred to simply as 'crystal').
The glass cover protecting the dial is the largest visible part of a watch. It’s the part you see the most, and it’s the part that has the most physical contact with your day to day life. A simple rule of thumb: if there’s no description telling you what material the cover is made from, assume its acrylic.
Acrylic scratches easily, gets cloudy over time, and completely void of luster even when new. It’s very hard to tell just by looking at website photography what type of cover you’re seeing, however, it is very evident once you’re actually holding it in your hands, if you have an acrylic cover. The same is true for higher quality covers, with photography losing a certain je nais se quoi that becomes immediately obvious in person. Mineral and Sapphire covers will add weight to the watch and make it feel more sturdy, too.
There are 3 primary materials used in glass covers: Acrylic, Mineral glass, Sapphire glass. Let's look at how they compare with each other in the chart below.
It won’t cost much more (under $100) to step into a mineral glass timepiece, and it’s a powerful indicator that this watch maker takes a serious approach at their trade, and probably incorporates other quality materials and craftsmanship into the finished timepiece as well.
My goal is to make sure you understand a little better how leather and timepieces come together in the aftermarket industry, and I hope this helps you in your buying decision.
By no means am I bashing leather craftsman who make watch accessories, either. The majority of us do a great job and provide amazing customer service. As somebody who has worked with leather for nearly 15 years, I am not a major watch expert, I’m just observant and value minded…and now you can be, too. I want you to know that I place a great deal of effort and pride in my leather products and hope you give Leatherpunk a chance the next time you need a watch cuff.